REVIEW BY: Melanie Love
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/07/2011
I can’t believe that four years has passed since I first listened to Peter, Bjorn & John with their breakout disc, 2007’s Writer’s Block. Their particular blend of Swedish pop has always been endearing, and their latest album is arguably their best since the peak they hit with Writer’s Block. 2009’s dark, brooding Living Thing found them sidestepping the vigorous success of single “Young Folks” and all its inescapable cheerfulness. But this disc reclaims that sort of spunk, casting aside that bitterness and picking up the claps, cowbells, and bright guitars, and hopefully makes clear that Peter, Bjorn & John will be remembered for more than one awesome single.
Album opener “Tomorrow Has To Wait” launches things out with this sunnier outlook. Throwing in piles of jangling instrumentation and vocal harmonies makes the arguably damning refrain “I don’t think that you are sorry for what you did” somehow sound positively jubilant. Meanwhile, second song “Dig A Little Deeper” is its own conga-line of energy, swerving along with sing-songy “oh-oh!”’s and hard-jamming drums. Singer-guitarist Peter Morén is always enjoyable to listen to with his slightly nasal, scratchy vocals (okay, not the best-sounding description, but it fits in well with the cleanly crafted, grooving beats).
It’s lead single “Second Chance” where the album really takes flight, though. Morén’s vocals are more muted and seductive, and the song itself combines catchiness with maturity: “You can’t count on the second try / The second try is such a comedown,” he says, possibly alluding to Living Thing. Such sentiments are what make Peter, Bjorn & John so interesting – they hit such a peak with Writer’s Block that it’s inevitable their ensuing output will be compared to that set of cohesive, excellent songs. And while Gimme Some is less of an engrossing listen overall than that album, it is nevertheless a pretty strong collection, with every song possessing its own vitality and sense of rhythm. There’s no denying that these guys have a knack for crisp, tailored production and sound, but their biggest challenge has been trying to move their listeners the way their breakthrough did.
Where that album captured first love in all its breathless glory, Gimme Some returns time and time again to heartbreak. “Breaker, Breaker” is a perfect example of their pairing of whirring, energized guitars and drums (they almost approach speed metal here) and lyrics that triumph out of sadness (“Before you break my heart / Before you run / I’m gonna break your nose and sing about it”). Even a song titled “I Know You Don’t Love Me” doesn’t fall into pits of its own despair, instead taking its shimmers of electronica, dreamy vocals, and lines like “No one brings me down like me” to turn potential limpidness into a strange sort of assertiveness.
The peculiar, interesting thing about Gimme Some is that it will draw you in on first listen because of the sheer exuberance of its beats – this is seamless pop, after all – and then it will become more endearing on further listen when you realize how much emotion and craft has gone into these songs. Strangely, these songs became all the more intriguing to me in comparison to Writer’s Block and Living Thing to see where Peter, Bjorn & John has come from and where they’re headed to. Gimme Some might not have you whistling along like “Young Folks” did, but it inspires a wider range of emotions and reactions, and that seems pretty great in itself.